“Waist Deep” is an empty urban action thriller that doesn’t offer anything to the viewer except one big headache. Director Vondie Curtis-Hall believes his film is an epic struggle of kinda-evil vs. evil, but he’s clueless how to film the material, leaving the picture an embarrassing, unintentional comedy for most of the sit.Picking up his son from elementary school one late afternoon, O2 (Tyrese Gibson, “Four Brothers”) is soon carjacked in broad daylight, with the thugs speeding off with his son in the back seat. Catching up with Coco (Meagan Good), the decoy who can lead O2 into the criminal underground to locate his child, the pair head off into the city, looking for disorganized ways to raise the ransom money so O2 can get his son back.
“Waist Deep” is such a baffling motion picture at times, you don’t know whether to laugh at it or slink away in disgust. It’s another urban fantasy where African-American men can run around Los Angeles emptying guns at each other in city streets without being noticed, the police are the real evil, and another rapper (The Game, who looks like Leatherface’s South Central cousin) can make his motion picture debut. Director Vondie Curtis-Hall appears to think the material is Shakespearean in some twisted way. But what do you expect from the man who not only directed “Glitter,” but spent an entire DVD commentary track defending the film?
Perhaps Curtis-Hall watched “Shaft” one too many times. The filmmaker takes “Deep” very seriously, setting up the O2 character as a Richard Roundtree-style anti-hero who speaks with his handguns and will stop at nothing to find his son. Gibson performs the role as instructed, but the tougher he gets the more ludicrous the film becomes. One minute the film seems to be making fun of street violence, the next it asks for tears as Coco recalls the details of the stray-bullet death of her child. One sequence suggests real-world horror as O2 watches his son taken from him through the cyclical nature of urban violence; another has The Game chopping off an associate’s hand with a machete, and then slapping him across the face with it. You get the point.
Masking his low budget with quaking cameras and a booming soundtrack, Hall proves himself to be quite an inept, reckless director. Curtis-Hall also seems fixated on Good’s cleavage, using her top as a starting point for half of the shots in the film (there’s a drinking game there somewhere).Pretty soon the idea of Good’s breasts come in handy to block out the stupidity of the final act, where Curtis-Hall, panicked that he didn’t make his contractual 90-minute running time, drags the film out a full 20 minutes after the story has clearly ended, beating the audience senseless with filler material that only extends the pain of “Waist Deep” further.